The Newfoundlanders began woods work operations near Dunkeld, Perthshire County, on the estate of the Dukes of Atholl, where they worked under the Timber Supply Department. During the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Dukes of Atholl planted around 27 million conifers, many of them non-native species gathered from around the globe, to both improve the land and increase their profits from it. The planned rows of trees are still visible via a zoomed in Google Earth view of Little Dunkeld, Scotland.
The Craigvinean Forest is where the Newfoundland Forestry Corps were sent to set up camp and to work on the steep hillside of one of the oldest managed forests in Scotland. At 213 m (700 ft) above the River Tay, Craigvinean translates to “craig/cliff of the goats”. One camp was established high up the steep hill where the men would be felling the trees; the other was lower, where sawmill operations were established. They had canvas tents at first and the weather took its toll on the men, who often had to work and sleep in wet clothes. Once they moved into their wooden huts, built from lumber they had felled and sawn themselves, their conditions improved. They literally recreated replicas of their Newfoundland lumber camps, familiar accommodations to many members of the corps. Rations at the same scale as allowed civilians were inadequate for the heavy workload the men had to ensure, so they were especially grateful to receive 3,060 kg (6,720 lb or 60 quintals, as the measurement of the day was known) of codfish from the A.N.D. Company while the rations levels were being adjusted at the War Office.
The local foresters thought the area too steep and difficult to get the logs down the hillside without building a mountain railway, at great expense and delay. The Newfoundlanders not only brought all their own equipment (a requirement of enlisting), they brought their ingenuity. They built a giant timber chute 914 m (3,000 ft) long, consisting of three lines of tree trunks, down which the monster logs could slide. At the bottom, a deep depression was created and fed by a nearby stream that formed a large pond into which the logs would plunge and float until needed at the mill. Water was brought by hose from the same stream to the chute, making the logs slide down more easily – possibly too easily and quickly. As the friction smoothed the sides of the log chute, the cut logs (some as long as 15 m / 50 ft) gathered speed and literally flew down the chute. Logs jumping the chute caused great safety risks to the men working below. Private Selby Taylor (#8460) was killed by a flying log on March 3, 1918 and is buried at Little Dunkeld Parish Cemetery.
The Newfoundlanders solved the speed problem by installing simple braking devices at intervals along the chute: logs were installed vertically and projected about 4.5 m (15 ft) above and either side of the chute; these two logs were suspended into the V trough and joined at the bottom. When the descending logs hit these “brake” logs, their speed was effectively slowed. The chute was heralded by the Timber Supply Department of the Board of Trade, when it was written that it, “will long be remembered as marking an epoch in forest utilisation in Scotland.”
The Scottish woodsmen at first felt the methods of the newcomers from Newfoundland were unconventional and showed no respect for the traditional ways. “These men work as though they are fighting against time,” complained one old Scot. “We are. That’s what we are here for,” retorted a Newfoundland logger! Soon, however, the officers and men were offered the hospitality of the locals and enjoyed sightseeing as far away as Edinburgh. The Duke of Atholl perhaps offered the men the best of hospitality when he allowed them the privilege to hunt the plentiful small game on his estate. To show their gratitude, they left the estate deer alone. Rabbits, hares, grouse, and partridge soon found their way to the cook’s pot at their camps!